Portugal soars to 5th in FIFA rankings; USA down a spot to 14
ZURICH (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo's match-winning goals for Portugal in World Cup playoff matches against Sweden lifted his country to No. 5 in the monthly FIFA rankings.
Portugal's 1-0 and 3-2 wins fueled a nine-place jump in the standings published Thursday as rivals played only friendly matches, which score fewer points in the calculations.
FIFA set World Cup seedings for the Dec. 6 draw from October rankings so playoff teams would not gain unfair advantage.
Spain leads an unchanged top four with Germany, Argentina and Colombia following, respectively. Uruguay is sixth, and No. 7 Italy swaps with No. 8 Switzerland, which was seventh for one month to clinch seeded status.
Netherland is ninth and host Brazil rises one to No. 10. Seeded Belgium falls six places to No. 11, and is now the lowest-ranked of the eight seeds.
Following a friendly draw with Scotland and loss to Austria, the United States drops one to No. 14, and CONCACAF rival Mexico used its home-and-away playoff wins against New Zealand to rise four places to No. 20.
Ivory Coast is the highest ranked African nation, remaining at No. 17, and Iran is best of the Asian confederations teams, rising four to No. 45. Long-time leader Japan fell four to No. 48.
Australia, No. 59, will be the lowest ranked of the 32 World Cup draw teams next week.
Spain maintained its clear points lead despite scoring zero for its 1-0 defeat by South Africa last week in a friendly. FIFA counted the result in the calculations despite Spain using seven substitutes, one more than the maximum allowed for an officially recognized match. Goalkeeper Pepe Reina replaced Victor Valdes, who was injured in the second half.
''FIFA have taken into account that both teams had agreed on the conditions of the match and submitted the necessary documentation prior to the match in order for FIFA to confirm it as an `A' international,'' the governing body said.
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